Jan 24, 2021

Building Sustainable Mountain Systems in Sub-Saharan Africa: Assessing the Linkages Between Communities, Ecosystem Services, Environment and Health


Ecosystems are the primary resource for human well-being and provide services essential to sustainable development; especially for African nations whose economies are dependent on agriculture, rangeland pastoralism, forestry management, and wildlife tourism.

Mountain areas support the majority of the population; have the highest amounts of rainfall, biodiversity, and agricultural production. Mountain areas are, however, subject to the greatest degree of change due to their steep climatic and ecological gradients, high population, and historical momentum of change. Planning for the future sustainable use of Africa’s mountain social-ecological ecosystem requires a longer-term historical perspective on human-ecosystem-environment interactions than is currently available.

Our cross-disciplinary research network will understand how African Mountain social-ecological systems responded to environmental shifts in the past, contribute to our understanding at the present and, most crucially, inform how we can manage challenges, and the communities reliant on these, into the future.

Our consortium will:

  • Integrate records of past environmental and land-use change around African Mountains to document socio-ecosystem dynamics over the last 100 years.
  • Identify critical instances of social change at the intersections of ecology and health in African mountain societies, including policy processes and interventions meant to facilitate social change.
  • Develop methods to integrate spatial and temporal environmental, health and societal data to understand socio-ecological processes in the past, at the present and into the future under climate-change and social scenarios.
  • Quantify the rate and timing of ecosystem shifts and water budgets on African Mountains due to changing population growth and demand (both internal and external), migration and human/ecosystem/resource interactions.
  • Identify equitable routes to a sustainable future for African Mountains integrating traditional ecological/local knowledge, protected areas and multifunctional landscapes.
  • Provide options for the sustainable management of ecosystem services that underpin the livelihoods for people, space for wildlife and offer resilience against future social and environmental change.



Academic Publications (four in total)

  • Human Ecology and Ecosystem Services. Sietse OLF, Street-Perrott A, Loader NJ, Froyd CA, Cuní-Sanchez A, Marchant RA, (2019) Sensitivity of a tropical montane cloud forest to climate change, present, past and future.
  • Marchant R, Richer S, Boles O, Capitani C. : Drivers and trajectories of land cover change in East Africa: Human and environmental interactions from 6000 years ago to present. Earth-Science Reviews 178 322 -378.
  • Quaternary Special Issue: E. Razanatsoa, R.Marchant, L. Gillson: “Understanding Past Processes to Chart More Sustainable Conservation Practices in Tropical Ecosystems” (call for submissions in September 2021)


Academic Publications

  • Norfolk, O, Yewhalaw, D, Marchant, R, Platts, P, Temesgen, T, Aslae, A, (2017) Diversity and composition of tropical butterflies along an Afromontane agricultural gradient in the Jimma Highlands, Ethiopia. Biotropica.
  • Jung, M, Hill, SLL, Platts, PJ, Marchant, R, Siebert, S, Fournier, A, Munekenye, FB, Purvis, A, Burgess, ND, Newbold, T (2016) Local factors mediate the response of biodiversity to land use on two African mountains. Animal Conservation.

Policy input

Contribution to the IPBES current assessment report on African Ecosystems.

Scholarly events

  • Presentation on Scenario Development at the IPBES meeting and the Ecosummitt, Montpellier August 2016.